Recently, I interviewed Jim DeMint for my radio show to discuss his new book, Falling In Love With America Again. Some remarks he made on the show, especially about slavery, have been burning up the blogosphere. Many of the articles imply or state that Mr. DeMint, former US Senator (R-SC) and now head of The Heritage Foundation, doesn’t know his US history.
In the interview, I asked DeMint about the founding fathers, the Civil War, and slavery. He said: “Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God.”
Of course, it is the Declaration of Independence that he was quoting there. But, as he well knows, the Constitution was predicated on the Declaration. The text of the Constitution states that it was signed in the 12th year of the Declaration (as well as the 1787th “Year of our Lord”).
DeMint continued , with what became his most controversial remarks in the interview: “But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.”
The DailyKos declared: “Note to Jim DeMint: Ending slavery was a Big Government police action.” One blog from MSNBC said of Mr. DeMint: “Don’t Know Much About History.” But just who doesn’t know much about history?
Let’s unpack what he said here and look at faith and slavery, proving DeMint’s key points.
The Bible condones indentured servitude to pay off debts (which has a limited time of service), for which it sometimes uses the word “slavery.” But the Bible condemns chattel slavery (owning slaves as property) in strong terms. The Bible condemns the Egyptians for enslaving the Hebrews. And it prohibits “man-stealing” (the premise of US slavery) as a capital crime.
Paul preached the radical doctrine that the slave and the free man are brothers in Christ…and that Philemon would be a better Christian if he freed his slave.